Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

18 January 2022

Britt-Marie Was Here
by Fredrik Backman
Published on January 10th, 2017 by Sceptre
Genre: Literary Fiction

Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She is not one to judge others—no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention. But hidden inside the socially awkward, fussy busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart that anyone around her realizes.

When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg—of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it—she finds work as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center. The fastidious Britt-Marie soon finds herself being drawn into the daily doings of her fellow citizens, an odd assortment of miscreants, drunkards, layabouts. Most alarming of all, she’s given the impossible task of leading the supremely untalented children’s soccer team to victory. In this small town of misfits, can Britt-Marie find a place where she truly belongs?

I've heard a lot of good things about Fredrik Backman's books. A new to me author, Britt-Marie Was Here was my first book by him and I can surely say that the hype around his works is very much warranted.

Sixty-three-year-old Britt Marie is a devoted housewife to her husband of 40 years. She cooks, cleans everything with bicarbonate of soda, and keeps everything in order. But when her husband's heart attack leads to the revelation that he's been unfaithful, Britt-Marie decides to leave it all.

After some constant needling at the job centre, Britt-Marie lands herself a job as a youth worker in a small, dwindling town called Borg. There, she finds herself in charge of a bunch of kids passionate about football and joining a local Cup. But what does a 63-year-old woman know about football, other than that it was her husband's favourite thing to watch on the telly?

"At a certain age almost all the questions a person asks him or herself are really just about one thing: how should you live your life?"

There's a sense of slight oddity to Backman's writing style, having been originally written in Swedish and then later translated to English for a wider audience. However, in spite of the slight language barrier, Britt-Marie Was Here evoked a lot of emotions in me. I laughed, I cried and I cried even harder. This is a very character-driven story: underdogs rising to the challenge. I adored almost all the characters in this book, especially Britt-Marie. She's described as passive-aggressive, peculiarly awkward with deadpan humour but she has a heart of gold.

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The Swedish film adaptation, starring Pernilla August, released in 2019 is incredibly wholesome and also, so aesthetically pleasing! I loved everything about it! Pernilla nailed her role as Britt-Marie very well, right from her slightly grumpy personality to her odd mannerisms. The other actors did exceptionally too, but Pernilla carried the whole film. Even if there had been some slight changes to the flow of the actual story, the film still stayed true to its core: Britt-Marie becoming a beacon of hope to Borg's less fortunate kids with big dreams.

Overall, Britt-Marie Was Here is a beautifully-written heartwarming novel about learning to become alive again instead of just simply existing. I highly recommend this novel, and the film! — you won't be disappointed!

Review originally posted on Instagram.